Yellowstone National Park Reveals Shocking Number of Large Animals Struck by Vehicles

by Jon D. B.

In response to a recent fatal bison-vehicle collision, Yellowstone National Park has revealed the total amount of large mammals struck from 2017-2021.

Across the last five years, Yellowstone National Park motorists have struck 241 large mammals with vehicles. The land’s megafauna are amongst its most revered aspects, yet there is little that can be done to prevent such collisions.

Thankfully, the full numbers put things into perspective. According to Morgan Warthin of Yellowstone’s Public Affairs Office:

“So far in 2021, there have been more than 1.6 million recreation visits to the park and two known vehicle collisions with bison. In 2020, there were 3.8 million recreation visits and 14 known vehicle collisions with bison.

There have been 241 known vehicle collisions with large mammals in the park over the last five years.”

Morgan Warthin, Yellowstone National Park

Warthin reveals the numbers to USA Today’s For The Win Outdoors Tuesday in response to their inquiries. Such inquiries come after many sites, including FTW and Outsider touched on a nighttime collision that proved fatal for a Yellowstone bison.

The park’s total number (see: 241 large mammal collisions) include other megafauna: elk, grizzly bears, and black bears among them.

Yellowstone National Park Tips to Avoid Wildlife Collisions

241 is a lot of large mammals. Especially considering the danger of extinction many face across North America. When looking at the total numbers above, however, it is important to weigh the vast ratio of vehicle-bound visitors against actual collisions. When this is done, the percentage is infinitesimal.

However, vehicular and traffic accidents are the most common source of death and injury within Yellowstone National Park.

As such, the park issues the following safety guidelines to help keep visitors – and wildlife – safe:

  • Drive cautiously and watch for animals. The park has hazards on the road you are not used to at home, like 2,000-pound bison! Other road hazards include soft shoulders, potholes and frost heaves.
  • Follow the speed limit. The speed limit in Yellowstone is 45 mph unless posted otherwise.
  • Use extra caution at night. Animal fur absorbs light, making them very difficult to see on roads at night even while using bright headlights. Slow down, especially on curves in the road, when venturing into the park during dark.
  • Drowsy? Take a break. Driving while drowsy significantly increases the risk of car accidents, and with 450 miles of roads in the park, long days behind the wheel are common. Be sure to get adequate sleep before getting behind the wheel and take turns driving with other legal drivers in your group to protect yourself and others.
  • Never park in the road or block traffic. If you need to stop or pull over for any reason, use a pullout and ensure all four vehicle tires are to the right of the white line. Stay with your vehicle if you’re stopped in a wildlife jam.
  • Pack your patience. Winding roads and traffic often make drive times much longer than expected.
  • Know before you go. For details on road closures and construction in the park, check out our park roads page.

The fencing of roads from bison and other megafauna isn’t an option. As such, it is up to us humans to practice safe driving and ensure we’re vigilant when driving in any area where wild animals may be present – including Yellowstone National Park.